31 March 2008

Last refuge of the scoundrel

I like to know where my beer comes from. It makes no difference to how it tastes, but it adds to the educational experience of drinking beers from around the world: this is how it's done in that place. I'm slightly bemused, then, by the label on my bottle of William Wallace Ale from the Traditional Scottish Ales company, dedicated to the eponymous Scottish nobleman, and offering us a place of origin no more precise than "Scotland" and then a postcode. I can only speculate as to why they'd prefer people didn't know it's made just outside Falkirk (I assume, unless it's contract brewed elsewhere), but there you have it. Nothing like pride in where you come from...

William Wallace is in the 80/- style, though bears little resemblance to the kegged heavies I drank while living in Scotland some years ago. It has the characteristic lovely dark red colour, but is quite lightly carbonated making for a full-bodied yet easily drinkable texture. The taste is dominated by big sweet caramel flavours with just a hint of a tang from the hops. Fairly simple, quaffable and satisfying.

And from a genuine Scot, to a fake one. Martin's of Belgium have been churning out their "Scotch ales" under the Gordon label for years, and I'm not adverse to those I've tried over in the low countries, even if it has been quite a while since my last one. Until it arrived in Ireland recently, I had never seen Gordon Finest Gold before: a 10% ABV monster in an innocent green bottle with the only twist-off cap I've ever seen on a European beer.

It pours a red gold colour and is another beer lacking much by way of carbonation: a spotty, uneven thin white skim sits on the surface for the duration. Definite waft of malt on the nose. That pale sugary malt comes through in the flavour in a big way: this is powerfully sweet to the point of sickliness and really quite difficult to drink. With most of the Gordon range you get a similar strength but it comes with dark and smoky caramel flavours to create an enjoyable sipping experience. This beer is just plain hard work for not much reward.

And, though up-front about its tartan fakery, it won't even tell us where it comes from either: "Brewed in Benelux" is far as it goes. Can't seem to find that place on a map.


  1. Anonymous5:01 pm

    I definitely share your sentiments about origin labeling, Beer Nut.

    With certain industrial brewers attempting a takeover of the "craft beer" market here in the US, this practice is becoming more common. Not that they can't make good beer, they just often times choose not to.

    I guess the thinking is that these vague labels would sway people to purchase it, or give the beer more respect, but often times it's quite the opposite from my standpoint. I can appreciate something more when I know where it's coming from and who made it.

  2. Beer Nut,

    I don't know what it is now but Gordon's Finest Gold used to be a rebadge of Kestrel Superstrength lager. Just about says it all, really.

  3. Beat me to it John!

  4. I knew not of this Kestrel, though I see it was a mere 9%, for the health-conscious tramp.

    Still, rebadging special brew as a premium Belgian takes a certain amount of balls.

    Thanks for the comments, all.

  5. We get Finest Gold in cans